The 58th Annual Grammy [Concert]: The televised Grammys were heavy on performances and light on awards, but we’re not complaining
For an hour or two prior to the televised portion of the Grammy Awards that began at 8, I was following along with the awards on Twitter. As I refreshed the constant stream of tweets announcing the winners, I couldn’t help but wonder — is there going to be anything left to give out later? Awards like “Best Country Song”, “Best Rock Song”, “Best Country Solo Performance”, and numerous others were given out even before most stars had walked the red carpet. Since these awards are not televised, the only way to know who won them was to follow along with the Twitter stream, watch the live feed, or read about them after the fact. Although the Grammys are not the only award show that hands out untelevised awards prior to the televised portion, for some reason it felt as if I was missing more with the Grammys than when the Oscars or the Golden Globes give out their equivalent, untelevised awards.
Despite the lack of awards and emphasis on performances, I can’t complain. In my opinion, this was the best group of performances to hit the Grammy stage in recent years — due to the (mostly) amazing quality of the singing, the caliber of artists and the performance as a whole. Throughout the various acts, there seemed to be a common thread of mashups and acoustic/string instrumentals. In classic Grammy fashion, there was also the strategic pairing of artists who would please demographics young and old and who brought together music’s past, present and future.
From the very beginning of the show, The Grammys focused on not only the transformative cultural power of music, but also on weaving together multiple generations through the eclectic variety of performers. In his opening monologue, LL Cool J called out past acts and pairings; although it was an at times awkward arrangement of clips, I appreciated the nostalgia. He also emphasized the live aspect of the show, saying, “these people here, they sing for real. This is the Grammys!”
Live music is always a risk, especially when it’s nationally televised. However, most of the performances went off without a hitch, a few leaving me speechless (Andra Day/Ellie Goulding, Sam Hunt/Carrie Underwood, The Weeknd, Taylor Swift and Tori Kelly/James Bay). The performances not only highlighted the best artists in today’s music world, but also brought back past music greats and gave us hope for the future of the music industry.
Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood were the night’s first past/present matchup. A Best New Artist nominee, Hunt has injected rap into his country sound and given Nashville a breath of fresh air, which he showcased with his performance of ‘Take Your Time”. He shared the stage with country veteran and superstar Carrie Underwood who has consistently proven her talent. The chemistry between the two was palpable and definitely evoked emotion in the audience as they sang together on Underwood’s “Heartbeat”.
The Weeknd gave a solid performance that showcased his versatile range and the unique tone and tenor of his voice. This, however, was to be expected from him. What was unexpected was his formal attire of a tuxedo and instrumental version of “In the Night”. He went above and beyond by breaking away from his traditional electronic track and supporting it with killer vocals.
Andra Day and Ellie Goulding, with their spine-tingling mashup of “Rise Up” and “Love Me Like You Do”, left me speechless. I was captivated by Andra Day’s raw and husky vocals, which were complimented perfectly by Ellie Goulding’s similarly raspy vocals that we have come to love. The two also appealed to a wide audience — Goulding’s star power supported the performance for those watching who hadn’t yet heard of Andra Day, who has now made a name for herself on the national stage. The duet was made much more captivating and intriguing when they blended the two songs and sang parts of each others’ tracks, which made it one of my favorite performances of the night.
There is also no way that I can talk about the Grammys without mentioning the Tori Kelly and James Bay duet, also performed as a harmonious acoustic mashup of their two hits — “Hollow” and “Let It Go”. Their haunting, beautiful and powerhouse vocals were a perfect pair. The two were both up for Best New Artist; and in my opinion, one of them should have won. As mentioned by Anna Kendrick in her introduction of the duet, they were both discovered online — indicative of the wealth of talent to be found on the Internet and the increasingly virtual trend of the music industry.
As the Grammys are live and subject to pretty much anything going wrong at any point without warning, this inevitably did happen. Unfortunately, it happened to Adele, someone who we consistently expect to floor us with her amazing vocals every time she opens her mouth. This magnified the issues with her instrumentals and vocals. According to her tweets, the piano microphones fell on the piano strings, which caused that unfortunate strumming sound we all heard. She looked visibly shaken up by not only this but also her audio completely dropping out at the top of her performance. The shining ray of light, literally, of her performance was the beautifully directed visuals. If only the sound had enabled her to vocally match the visual beauty of her performance.
Another flop in my opinion was Justin Bieber’s “Where Are U Now” with Skrillex and Diplo. He should have stuck to his acoustic version of “Love Yourself”, which proved that he is talented underneath all of his flashy performance stunts. His switch to a rock/acoustic version of “Where Are U Now” just threw the performance off and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Overall, the trend toward performing acoustic and instrumental versions of these tracks as well as the common theme of mashups between many of these duets set this year’s performances apart from those in years past.
This is only a brief rundown of the amazing live performances that graced the Grammy stage Monday night. There were other solo performances that also blew me away, like Little Big Town and Alabama Shakes. The tributes to Lionel Richie, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, BB King and Michael Jackson should not be forgotten and were consistent with the tradition of honoring the music greats that have come before. These nods to music’s rich past and display of awesome talent in the present give me nothing but hope for the promising future of music and of the music industry, which is capable of transformative power that we cannot even imagine.